At the firing line in the Olympic shooting centre in Markopoulo, Nassim Hassanpur clearly stands apart from her rivals.

Not only because she is dressed in a headscarf and a long garment in accordance with Islamic law, but because she is the only female athlete to represent Iran at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Hassanpur says she hopes more women will follow in her footsteps.

"I am proud to represent my country and hope to make my country proud of me," she had said at a pre-Olympic press conference in Teheran.

Disappointed

But, reaching for her handkerchief, teary-eyed Hassanpur was not happy after failing to qualify for the finals in the air pistol competition.

The 19-year-old athlete said she wished her performance had been better.

"I am very happy to be here for the Olympics but I am not happy with my performance today"

Nassim Hassanpur,
Iranian female competitor

"I am very happy to be here for the Olympics but I am not happy with my performance today," she said.

She ranked 28th out of 41 women taking part in the 10m air pistol competition, with a score of 376. Only the top eight made the final.

"I performed much better at the Gold Cup in Italy, ranking 15 out of 74 competitors and earned a bronze medal at the Asian Games five months ago in Malaysia", she said

Protest

Meanwhile, Olympic judo officials failed to agree on Sunday on a response to an apparent political boycott by Iran of a bout with an Israeli that saw Iranian world champion Arash Miresmaeili pull out of the games.

Arash Miresmaeili had been a big
gold medal hope for his country

Further talks were due on Monday.

Miresmaeili, 66kg world champion in 2001 and 2003, turned up overweight at the weigh-in for Sunday morning's first-round bout against Israel's Ehud Vaks.

But he was also quoted as saying he refused to fight out of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

A spokeswoman for Iran's Olympic Committee said Miresmaeili was following orders under a general policy in Tehran to reject contact with Israel.

Miresmaeili won the world championship gold in 2001 and 2003 and had been a big gold medal hope for Iran at the Olympics.